July 11–September 4, 2024

All True Artists Are Hated: The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat

A filmmaker of … brilliantly intimidating films. Unafraid, even eager, to cause discomfort, Breillat has dedicated her career to the cinematic excavation of taboo subjects and liberating female desire onscreen.”

Caitlin Quinlan, MUBI Notebook

Few filmmakers have explored the subject of female sexuality with more seriousness—or pushed the boundaries of sexual representation in the arthouse with more audacity—than Catherine Breillat, self-appointed pariah of French cinema.” Hers is a cinema of truth by way of transgression, of taboos broken not for sensationalist shock value, but an unyielding determination to carry her ideas through to their furthest conclusions. That her artistic project, a patently feminist and polemical one, deliberately deals with facets of womanhood concealed or deemed vulgar by polite (i.e. patriarchal) society helps account for why Breillat has courted such heated controversy—and, in some corners, outright contempt. All true artists are hated,” she has asserted. Only the conformists are ever adored.”

Before there was Breillat, provocateur of the screen, there was Breillat, provocateur of the letter. A true enfant terrible, at 17 her inflammatory 1969 debut novel L’homme facile (A Man for the Asking) scandalized the book world and was banned for readers under 18 in France. It would be the first in a career-long fisticuff with censorship. Her segue into film, a passion ignited by Bergman and Buñuel, began with a bit role in Bertolucci’s Last Tango in Paris (1972), whose envelope-pushing improprieties, and attending cause célèbre, offered a blueprint for the sort of uncompromising cinema Breillat was determined, if not seemingly destined, to make.

The transition from author to auteur wouldn’t come easy. Her 1976 directorial debut A Real Young Girl, a sexually explicit coming-of-ager adapted from her third novel, fell prey to a newly imposed tax on adult-classified pictures, persuading the producer to suspend its release. (It wouldn’t see the light of day until 1999’s Romance stirred interest in the Breillat back catalogue.) Her follow-up Nocturnal Uproar (1979), the public’s first taste of the incendiary writer as cineaste, took a critical and commercial drubbing at home and resulted in a nine-year absence from moviemaking for the confidence-rattled director.

Though ripples and international inroads were made with her subsequent work (1988’s 36 fillette played NYFF, for instance), it wasn’t until sixth feature Romance that the artist went from domestic agitator to global menace. The censorship row over the film’s unprecedented explicitness, exacerbated by the casting of Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi and rumours (later confirmed) of unsimulated sex, triggered widespread debate on the definition of pornography” and raised the hackles of some feminist groups who also took umbrage with its portrayal of a sadomasochistic screen heroine. As intellectually exacting as it is unabashedly graphic, Romance positioned Breillat at the frontline of a so-called New French Extremity” movement and in the pedigree of principled transgressors like de Sade, Bataille, and Pasolini. Her ensuing films, including masterpiece Fat Girl (2001), depravity study Anatomy of Hell (2004), and festival darling The Last Mistress (2007), would be measured, for better or worse, against the revelatory daring of that breakthrough work.

This summer, thicken your skin and leave your scruples at the door as The Cinematheque presents a near-comprehensive retrospective of the formidable French auteur’s cycle of feature films. Occasioned by the theatrical release of Last Summer (2023), Breillat’s first picture in a decade, All True Artists Are Hated” surveys nearly fifty years of feather ruffling by the doyenne of deviant female desire, including new restorations, as well as 35mm presentations, of rarely screened works.

The bad girl intellectual of French cinema.”

Amy Taubin, Village Voice

The high priestess of errant female sexuality.”

Beatrice Loayza, Film Comment

The most uncompromising French filmmaker of her generation.”

Benjamin Secher, The Telegraph

Upcoming Screenings

  • Last Summer 1
  • Last Summer
  • L’été dernier
  • France2023
  • Catherine Breillat
  • 104 DCP
  • NR
  • The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat
  • 36 Fillette 1
  • 36 fillette
  • France1988
  • Catherine Breillat
  • 89 DCP
  • 18A
  • The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat
  • Dirty Like An Angel 4
  • Dirty Like an Angel
  • Sale comme un ange
  • France1991
  • Catherine Breillat
  • 105 35mm
  • NR
  • The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat
  • Romance X 1
  • Romance
  • Romance X
  • France1999
  • Catherine Breillat
  • 99 DCP
  • R
  • The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat
  • Perfect Love 1
  • Perfect Love
  • Parfait amour!
  • France1996
  • Catherine Breillat
  • 115 DCP
  • NR
  • The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat
  • Fat Girl 1
  • Fat Girl
  • À ma soeur!
  • France/Italy2001
  • Catherine Breillat
  • 86 DCP
  • R
  • The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat
  • Anatomy Of Hell 2
  • Anatomy of Hell
  • Anatomie de l’enfer
  • France/Portugal2004
  • Catherine Breillat
  • 77 DCP
  • R
  • The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat
  • Sex Is Comedy 3
  • Sex Is Comedy
  • France/Portugal2002
  • Catherine Breillat
  • 95 DCP
  • 18A
  • The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat
  • Last Mistress 4
  • The Last Mistress
  • Une vieille maîtresse
  • France/Italy2007
  • Catherine Breillat
  • 115 35mm
  • 18A
  • The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat
  • Bluebeard 1
  • Bluebeard
  • Barbe Bleue
  • France2009
  • Catherine Breillat
  • 80 DCP
  • 14A
  • The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat
  • Sleeping Beauty 2
  • The Sleeping Beauty
  • La belle endormie
  • France2010
  • Catherine Breillat
  • 82 DCP
  • PG
  • The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat
  • Abuse Of Weakness 1
  • Abuse of Weakness
  • Abus de faiblesse
  • France2013
  • Catherine Breillat
  • 105 DCP
  • PG
  • The Transgressions of Catherine Breillat

List of Programmed Films

Date Film Title Director(s) Year Country
2024-Jul Last Summer Catherine Breillat 2023 France
2024-Jul A Real Young Girl Catherine Breillat 1999 France
2024-Jul 36 fillette Catherine Breillat 1988 France
2024-Jul Dirty Like an Angel Catherine Breillat 1991 France
2024-Jul Romance Catherine Breillat 1999 France
2024-Jul Perfect Love Catherine Breillat 1996 France
2024-Aug Fat Girl Catherine Breillat 2001 France . . .
2024-Aug Anatomy of Hell Catherine Breillat 2004 France . . .
2024-Aug Sex Is Comedy Catherine Breillat 2002 France . . .
2024-Aug The Last Mistress Catherine Breillat 2007 France . . .
2024-Aug Bluebeard Catherine Breillat 2009 France
2024-Aug The Sleeping Beauty Catherine Breillat 2010 France
2024-Aug Abuse of Weakness Catherine Breillat 2013 France

Due to the inadequate condition of the 35mm print and the absence of alternative screening materials, we have decided to remove Nocturnal Uproar from our Catherine Breillat series. Screenings will be rescheduled when the film’s digital restoration, currently in the works, is available.